Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment has served as de­ter­rent - Uwemed­imo Nwoko

Ac­tivist lawyer, Uwemed­imo Nwoko who was called to the Bar De­cem­ber 1992 is the At­tor­ney Gen­eral and Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice of Akwa Ibom State. In this in­ter­view, he speaks on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, elec­tion dis­putes, Al­ter­na­tive Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion (ADR) a

Daily Trust - - LAW - By Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye

Would you sub­scribe to the use ADR to re­solve elec­tion mat­ters?

It will be a good idea but I doubt if it will work. The par­ties and par­tic­i­pants in most elec­tion pe­ti­tion dis­putes are al­ways tak­ing very stiff po­si­tions. It is like there is only one way out and the one way is the ticket. The only is­sue that can be used to re­solve the mat­ter is the man­date. It is dif­fi­cult to use ADR in the sense that the man who owns the man­date is not hold­ing it for him­self. He is hold­ing it for the peo­ple and so he has noth­ing to of­fer the other party in ex­change for that man­date, know­ing fully that he is go­ing into of­fice. So what will he of­fer the other side? Ev­ery can­di­date for an elec­tion is car­ry­ing the hopes and as­pi­ra­tions of a large crowd of sup­port­ers be­hind him. If he goes into ADR what will he be bring­ing back to his large sup­port­ers. Be­fore you know it he would be ac­cused of be­tray­ing his sup­port­ers and be­ing a sell­out. He would end up with a bad name. The con­clu­sion would be that he has been set­tled. I would rec­om­mend it but I have strong doubt as to the ef­fi­cacy of ADR to elec­tion mat­ters.

Where the elec­tion mat­ters are taken to court and it is the court that de­ter­mines who wins an elec­tion, would you agree that it is the court and no longer the peo­ple that de­ter­mine the win­ners?

No, I will not be­cause the court has no busi­ness with the choice of who car­ries the man­date of the peo­ple. The only in­volve­ment of the court is that af­ter the elec­toral um­pire, which is the INEC con­ducts elec­tion, and de­clares a par­tic­u­lar per­son a win­ner, where some­body is dis­sat­is­fied with that, that dis­sat­is­fac­tion is based on cer­tain al­le­ga­tions and the con­sti­tu­tion opens a win­dow for him to ven­ti­late that dis­sat­is­fac­tion and he goes there to ven­ti­late it; the court has no busi­ness with who even­tu­ally emerges as the win­ner of the man­date at stake.

If the court finds that the man­date was given to the wrong per­son, it can col­lect it and give it to the right per­son or where the man­date is ques­tion­able; it can nul­lify it and let them go back for a real con­test. That is the ex­tent to which the court can go. It would be wrong to say that it is the court that chooses the peo­ple to hold the man­date.

How do you re­late this to the de­ci­sion in Sen­a­tor Ak­pabio’s case?

Some­one came to court and said that Ak­pabio was not qual­i­fied; se­condly, that his elec­tion should be nul­li­fied on grounds of non-com­pli­ance to Elec­toral Act 2010 and, or cor­rupt prac­tices. When they were call­ing ev­i­dence, they did not call any ev­i­dence re­lat­ing to cor­rupt prac­tices and the court pointed that out. It is not enough to raise al­le­ga­tions; you must have facts to sup­port that al­le­ga­tion. At the end of the day they only tried to call ev­i­dence in re­spect to non­com­pli­ance and com­pletely aban­doned all ev­i­dence re­lat­ing to cor­rupt prac­tices.

What is your re­ac­tion to that de­ci­sion?

It was a well mar­shaled de­ci­sion. The judg­ment is a prod­uct of ex­em­plary courage. Each of the is­sues brought be­fore the court was ad­dressed. From the is­sue of non-qual­i­fi­ca­tion to con­test to the is­sue of cor­rupt prac­tices even to the wit­nesses called by the par­ties. The pe­ti­tioner called 17 wit­nesses, the re­spon­dent called 23 wit­nesses and the court was able to an­a­lyze the wit­nesses called by both sides be­fore com­ing to con­clu­sion. It was a judg­ment worth the salt and the judges should be ap­plauded.

What is your take on cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment?

I sup­port cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment. The cir­cum­stances and sit­u­a­tions where a per­son is wrongly con­victed may be like one in a mil­lion and it hardly hap­pens. It should not be be­cause there is a mere spec­u­la­tive pos­si­bil­ity that a per­son may have been wrongly con­victed that some­body who has taken an­other per­son’s life or has com­mit­ted a cap­i­tal of­fence would be let to go, par­tic­u­larly in the type of so­ci­ety we are liv­ing to­day.

Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment is meant to serve as a de­ter­rent.

Has cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment re­ally served as a de­ter­rent?

To some ex­tent it has, you may not be able to have sci­en­tific mea­sure­ment of the ex­tent it has served but it has be­cause I come from a com­mu­nity where vi­o­lent ac­tions are used to set­tle scores. If you check through the crim­i­nal law you will see that there are a lot of mur­ders from the part of the coun­try which I come from. I know that there are peo­ple who re­straint them­selves just be­cause of the gov­ern­ment and the cir­cum­stances they would have faced.

Th­ese days it is dif­fi­cult to have suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship in law prac­tice that would sur­vive the founder. What is wrong with part­ner­ship in law prac­tice?

The av­er­age per­son in Africa and par­tic­u­larly Nige­ria does not act in such a way that trust should be re­posed in him. So when two friends want to form a part­ner­ship, you find that one way or the other some un­der­cut­ting, and not very straight for­ward ac­tion tended to un­der­mine the re­la­tion­ship and make them to won­der why they should con­tinue with the part­ner­ship will crop up.

The prob­lem is our char­ac­ter, even within two broth­ers who are lawyers, you may find out that they can­not run the same of­fice.

I run a part­ner­ship with my younger brother which we are try­ing to make a fam­ily part­ner­ship. I pray that we suc­ceed. We are also build­ing it into the con­scious­ness of our chil­dren that we are build­ing it on trust and love. We have done it suc­cess­fully but we pray that our chil­dren will pass it on to their chil­dren.

Chief Gani Fawe­hinmi never had a part­ner­ship. He put it in his will that when he died his law firm should be dis­solved, the books should be given out to in­sti­tu­tions and he did not ex­pect any­one to con­tinue with his law firm. But you can talk about Chief FRA Wil­liams, he has two SANs in the fam­ily but are they work­ing to­gether? That is in our char­ac­ter. But when you travel abroad you find law firms car­ry­ing on for more than 100 years.

Uwemed­imo Nwoko

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